Last week I ran into a customer who relocated his hotel reservations from another hotel in the city to our hotel. He calls himself a “Marriott Junkie”. Robert loves staying within the Marriot brand for its family spirit of service. He took the time to tell me about some of the memories and stories from traveling year round across the United States.
Robert was very engaging and wanted to meet everyone on our hotel team. The hotel will be his second home for 2015 as he will be doing some work in the Dallas area. I introduced myself and we talked about his customer service experience with the brand.
I asked him what makes our brand unique and inviting. He said, “It’s the family atmosphere and spirit to serve the customer.” Robert shared a magical moment in one of his visits to the Dallas area hotels. The hotel management team invited him as a guest for the grand opening of a new ballroom inside the hotel on the second floor. He met some of the most fascinating people as they threw a specular reception and the staff was very personable in creating a memorable experience for him as loyal customer.
My take away? Strong brands create emotional experiences and connections that creates a customer for life. As a result, the customer is willing to share the stories with other people and continue the relationship for years to come.
What does that mean for leaders?
Delivering excellent service is critical for all brands today. We can all agree on that. But many companies and brands struggle to exceed even just the basics of service to WOW the customer. Leadership and culture play a big role in creating a powerful brand. In today’s competitive customer service economy, average simply does not count. There is always someone out there who is over delivering and you better play the game if you want to win with the customer.
I suggest three keys areas for leaders to focus on to keep on the brand promise:
Hire for attitude, train for skill
Let’s begin with the hiring process which sometimes is underestimated in many companies. I see managers work twice as hard and finding themselves reinventing the wheel on how to create a sustaining customer service culture. You need to look at your hiring process from a customer and culture point of view. Does this person fit with our customer service culture? Do they have the service spirit to go out and create memories? Great brands have a rigorous process to hire the right attitude for their culture and brand.
Create a training culture
Successful leaders continue to sharpen the saw in their organization. Customer service is competitive as ever, but if you are not continuously learning and teaching, your team will stay behind the curve. Training is a daily discipline. As a leader, you must place it on your daily agenda because it’s a worthwhile investment for your employees and the customer. Customers can sense a culture that’s committed to training and innovation.
Communicate clear expectations
As a leader, you need to be the chief communicator in your organization. You need to set the tone for clear expectations of what you want to achieve on your customer service journey. If people don’t know where you going, they will most likely not follow. I would suggest to have clear written goals and expectations of each customer service touch point. That way your employee can refer back to those expectations and goals on a daily basis. More importantly, you as a leader needs to ensure you inspect what you expect on each customer service expectation.
I would love to hear from you if you have additional suggestions for keeping the brand promise.